Activism of Yes
Activism of Yes
I have been feeling plagued by misunderstanding and judgement recently, and have been wrestling with the question of how to address it. In a divided world that seems at this moment so preoccupied with negativity and misunderstanding, what is the proper reaction? Do I spend time defending myself, or do I spend time doing the work of ignoring the deconstructive behavior and doing the work anyway, in spite of doubt, exhaustion or frustration?
This is such a useful question. In a promo-heavy culture, we tend to think that whatever banter, whatever imagery, whatever story is highest on the feed is the only thing that will be on record, the only thing that will be remembered of our effort, our era, or our energy. And so we feel the pressure to respond in a way that will resonate and reject the dogma and judgement that causes us to feel so mischaracterized. We feel endlessly tempted to restate our invigorated passion and problem in the first place.
So, at first I set out to do that. I sat endlessly writing, philosophy and compassion directed toward those who disagree with me, trying to contribute to an ancient moral conversation in a way that felt constructive, classy, and calm, in the midst of the sea of frenzy I perceive all around me. I learned two things from starting that journey: 1) I have a lot to say about what I do and why I do it. More than just a blog post and 2) It was exhausting, and pre-occupying, and I can't complete it yet.
So, I've put it down for a moment. And set about other things. Feeding the animals, talking with a high school student who is doing a senior project focused on farming. Mothering my children. Swallowing the news every day. Looking at the leaves as they change. Building and daily renewing a calm and loving environment all around me and inside of me, so that my loved ones and I can thrive. And as I do so, a million thoughts enter my consciousness, about the worthiness of just turning off the feed and putting my boots on. Of letting my words be words of encouragement and consistency, and not of reaction or response.
If you are reading this you are likely one of the people daily involved in the slow, arduous, hopeful yet exhausting work toward an enlivened food system. You are a farmer, rubbing salve into your cracked hands, shouldering the weight of a thousand mistakes you've made in search of a better way. You're a chef, a baker, yawning and peering through the fog between your eyelids, working to create the next thing you haven't thought of yet. You're a person who strives to eat and shop mindfully, even as you've stumbled through your day, perhaps at a job that is completely unrelated to the food pilgrimage, and you still stop at the farmers market while your kids are whining, because you know deep down that it matters.
THIS. This is what I call "activism of yes," and it is my favorite form of resistance. It is the work that comes without recognition, the thing that doesn't directly fly in the face of the world's turmoil, but instead paints the vivid but quiet rewards of a good-smelling kitchen, a healthy chubby child, a topsoil 1/1000th of an inch richer today than it was last year, or a worldview which is half an observation closer to holism than it was when you woke up. This is the activism concerned with relationships and energy, with experience to lend intuition to the scientific data slung endlessly back and forth in the media. This is the work you do even when you aren't sure it will be effective in the long run, but you do it anyway because it feels right.
It is easy in our times, to espouse an activism of no. To rant and react online, to wax superior, to blame, to protest, to call out the fault of the things you do not understand. This is easy. It is also not getting us anywhere.
I wrote the dedication to my forthcoming book during the editing process, in response to the editors parenthetical [did you want to insert a dedication, here?] comment in blue review font on my laptop screen. I wrote it in a instant, and later wondered whether I had been too hasty. Well, the first printed copies arrived yesterday, and when I opened the book to be greeted by that smell of new paper and ripe ink, I saw this:
It's bloody perfect, now as it ever was. I dedicate my daily activism to yes. To doing it anyway, because we believe there is a better way. And to all of you out there picking up fences, turning off the phone, looking up at the sky, looking at a line of tickets and buttering every slice, to all of you shopping, thinking, working silently and courageously every damn day. Thank you. Thank you for your courage and your dedication to a usefuless that is far more inspiring than negativity and hatred, disagreement and extreme opinion. Thank you for your exploration, your willingness to be wrong. This is the work of a tribe of genuine heroes. You have my infinite respect.